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Study: EPA carbon rules would save thousands of lives in Illinois and Missouri

A new study concludes that Missouri and Illinois would reap some of the largest public health benefits in the country from rules requiring utilities to cut back on carbon pollution.

Researchers at Harvard, Boston and Syracuse universities found the two states could save thousands of lives from 2020 to 2030 if utilities implement carbon control measures at coal plants. Limiting carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants also leads to reduced soot and other pollutants that cause heart and respiratory problems.

Under a scenario similar to the EPA’s recently proposed carbon pollution rules, the researchers estimated Missouri could prevent 1,200 deaths between 2020 and 2030. In Illinois, about 2,100 lives could be saved.

The study estimates that Illinois would avoid the fourth-most deaths, while Missouri ranked No. 9 in the number of avoided deaths due to stricter power plant emission controls, according to the findings, released Monday.

Related: EPA says greenhouse gas releases from wells, pipelines decline

Power plants have faced a number of new emissions rules in recent years and are just implementing new standards for pollutants such as mercury.

The Environmental Protection Agency in June proposed rules limiting carbon dioxide from existing power plants mainly as a way to slow the effects of climate change.

Some groups have pointed to additional public health benefits from burning less coal to bolster the case for stricter carbon dioxide regulations.

The coal industry has criticized the rule, saying it will make energy more expensive and that lack of energy is a more pressing problem for many of the world’s people.

In St. Louis, Ameren Missouri has argued it can hit the EPA’s targets by 2035, five years after the EPA’s proposed deadline. The utility says that will be $4 billion cheaper than meeting the EPA’s 2030 deadline.